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Emergency officials prepare for storm

BY SUSAN KIM | Richmond, VA | January 2, 1999

Emergency officials in this southeastern state are preparing for the second major ice storm in less than two weeks, even as hundreds of residents are still without electricity as a result of the last ice storm on Christmas Eve.

Virginia Gov. Jim Gilmore, faced with predictions of another major storm, declared a state of emergency Wednesday in wake of damages caused by the first storm.

The new threat comes from two storms currently in the Midwest that are expected to merge this weekend as they moved east. Chicago may receive about 15-inches of snow and blizzard-like conditions. As a result airline officials at Chicago's O'Hara International Airport were encouraging travelers to avoid Chicago for the next several days.

An ice storm in Arkansas Thursday brought down power lines and was responsible for more than 100,000 residents to loose their electricity.

In Manchester, TN, earlier this week, Eric Hodge and his wife only wanted a bowl of hot popcorn.

Then the realization set in that the popcorn was the kind that needed to be popped in a microwave - and they still had no electricity.

More than 360,000 homes and businesses in central and eastern Virginia were affected by the Christmas Eve storm. Tree trimmers and utility crews from Virginia Power and from out of state were working 16-hour shifts trying to restore power.

On one road near the town, 70 utility poles were downed in a three-mile stretch.

Residents throughout the stricken region managed to stay warm and cook Christmas dinner using fireplaces, kerosene heaters, camp stoves or by going to the homes of family and friends who still had power. Emergency generators were pressed into service.

"You can be pretty ingenious if you're hungry enough and cold enough," Hodge said.

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